Tampa Bay Lightning
Appreciate the NHL All-Star Game for what it is
RALEIGH, N.C. - The concept of an All-Star Game is to put the best players in their respective sport on the same playing surface. But that will never make it the same game. People like to get hung up too much on the NHL All-Star Game, calling it a sham because it's nothing like real hockey. Well, it never will be. And to me, that's just fine. I don't expect it to look like Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. I applaud the NHL for trying to tweak the game, trying to find a way to pique not only the fans, but the players as well. That's why I don't see anything wrong with the concept of the Fantasy Draft, which determined the makeup for the two All-Star teams you will see on the ice this afternoon at RBC Center. While I don't know how long this format will hold up in the long term, it's created some interest this year, not only from fans and media, but also the players. There is general curiosity as to how the draft transpired and how it plays out on the ice. The buzz of anticipation inside the Raleigh Convention Center on Friday was noticeable.But don't expect to see Marty St. Louis trying to block a shot off the stick of Dustin Byflugien in an All-Star Game like he does during the regular season. Don't look for Alex Ovechkin to plant Patrick Kane into the boards on a hard check battling for the puck. It's just not going to happen. There are some who would like to abolish the All-Star Game, saying that because it's not real hockey it shouldn't be played. I'm not one of those, and if you take the game for what it is and not what some want it to be, there should be no issues. The All-Star Game is not about the game of hockey, it's about the sport. It's an opportunity for both the NHL and the Players Association to showcase the players and put a spotlight on the league. And while some of the players invited might beg to differ, it's a relaxing atmosphere. Sure, those participating have to get on flights, travel to whatever city is hosting the event, get shuffled around to different events and everything else that comes along with the weekend. But it's nothing like playing a real game, it's not a mentally draining situation and the physical toll is minimal. The bottom line: The All-Star Game is not going anywhere. It's as much about an opportunity for league sponsors to schmooze with some of the top players and executives in the game, as it is for fans to catch some of the best players in the world in the same setting. Both elements help grow the game, financially as well as in a broader interest by exposing the game to some who might not have been interested before. And if the All-Star Game helps grow that interest, even if it doesn't represent all that is great about the game, then that is just fine. Take it for what it is, a fun and fan-friendly weekend in a loose facsimile to a real hockey game.